I may have mentioned in one of my previous posts that there is one prayer request that I am almost always guaranteed to receive at the close of a service, particularly in a large church where we’re visiting.
“I want to divorce my husband. Can you pray that our separation is easy an smooth?”
These requests do no come easy. The supplications are often made by tearful women – who, despite their church finery – look wrung out and hung up to dry. They’ve prayed for their marriages. They’ve fasted for their union. They believe in the ministry of reconciliation. But by the time they’ve gotten to that prayer line at the altar, they’re ready to admit to themselves what the old aunties used to say: “You can’t keep a man who doesn’t want to be kept.”
Resigning yourself to the idea that the end of your marriage is imminent can be absolutely traumatic, especially when one partner has already moved on physically and emotionally while you still cling to hope. When the hope for reconciliation has been snatched from you, it leaves you feeling adrift; unmoored. In my trusted position as a pastor’s wife, it’s a difficult thing to witness. The grieving process is not unlike working through the circumstances surrounding a slow, painful death.
Still, it’s easier to pray for this former group than the latter. The hardest part about praying with certain women whose souls are still tied to husbands who have expressed in no uncertain terms that this marriage has run its course (for them) is getting them to understand that while we can take our request to God for reconciliation or a change in a loved one’s heart, God never forces His will on anyone’s heart. God does not force an action or a reaction from any of us. If a man/woman willfully walks away from their marriage, all of the counseling, guilt laying and law in the world can’t force them to return to the union and participate it in an equal, loving manner. Doing so can only lead to resentment and will be poisonous to everyone involved. Sure, God can touch their heart, but they have to be open to receiving that touch and respond accordingly. It’s this sticking point that the woman of blind faith so frequently can’t/refuses to grasp: the concept of the power of individual will. Sometimes that strength and power of will rivals in might to the Almighty’s.
A while ago, Marshall gave a word about the storms that we each will have to battle in our Christian walk. Those storms can manifest in myriad ways and are almost always guaranteed to come at intervals in our life.
“What matters,” he said, “is not what the situation you’re facing is, but how you handle it. But you know what? I’ve never known a storm to last forever. It doesn’t matter how long or fierce it is…the storm always ends. It just does.”
In a follow up conversation with a new friend who has been battling with the break down of her filial relations, she took the analogy of the storm further by talking about the safety of the eye of the storm, which is ironically often in the middle of it. It’s counter-intuitive, but God in his perfect plan designed that that strongest place of chaos is smack in the middle of it. As she finds herself – and as well all will at some point – in the middle of a ferocious tempest, we can rest knowing that we’ll be kept safe so long as we are centered.
The conversation brought to mind a particularly devastating tsunami that struck Japan in 2011. An earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0 unleashed tidal waves that obliterated hundreds of miles of Japan’s coast and cost thousands of lives. There is a small coastal village called Aneyoshi which was spared the devastation only because they adhered to a warning written on an ancient rock.
DO NOT BUILD BELOW THIS POINT
In this particular storm, the waves stopped just 300 feet below the rock, sparing the homes and lives of the 11 families that lived in the village. Why only 11 families? Because as one of the elderly residents explained, people tend to forget about potential danger ‘until the next tsunami claims 10,000 or more lives.’ They migrate to the water’s edge in order to be closer to their boats or have more convenient access to the road.
The word of God is very much the foundation – a rock, if you will – for our success, happiness and (spiritual/physical) health as believers. So long as we do not structure our lives beneath the safety and surety of God’s word, the storm may rage, but we will not be swept away with it. God’s ways are not always convenient (actually, they seldom are) but his laws and commandments, which we are at liberty to take as advise, are rooted in ancient wisdom. The Father uses foolish things to confound the wise. The recommendation of cutting off a spouse may sound unwise or unconventional, but Jesus said if your right hand offends thee, cut it off. If you find yourself in a toxic marriage and after having done all you can via prayer, fasting and pleading with your betrothed for reconciliation, it’s okay prune that relationship. It’s okay to let it go.
That was the storm.
You can rebuild a new life, so long as it’s steadfast and secure on the word and plan of God.